By Peter Duveen

PETER'S NEW YORK, June 12, 2008--Charges of disorderly conduct were dropped yesterday against a Queensbury, New York man who was arrested in March because he exhibited a sign with an expletive in front of the name of U.S. President George W. Bush.

But the Glens Falls, N.Y. police, who in arresting Eric Schmidt, 21, stopped him from engaging in lawful protest, appeared unrepentant, according to published reports, and left open the possibility that they would continue a program of harassment against Schmidt.

"What he was doing was protected political speech in a public area," The Post Star of Glens Falls quoted Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan as saying. Hogan agreed to a motion filed by Schmidt's attorney, Tucker Stanclift, to drop the disorderly conduct charge before Judge Richard Tarantino, according to The Post-Star report.

But Glens Falls police captain Kevin Conine, who was the arresting officer in Schmidt's case, appeared to be unrepentant, in spite of impeding and subjecting to public embarrassment an innocent man who was exercising his right to free speech. Conine said that in arresting Schmidt, the police were responding to complaints by motorists, according to the Post-Star report. Conine did not say, however, how such complaints constituted grounds for arrest.

Instead of affirming that Schmidt's rights would be protected during future protests, Conine said: "We'll just have to deal with it on a case-by-case basis," thus leaving the threat of arrest over the head of the Queensbury man in the event he continues to exercise his free speech rights in public.

Schmidt was arrested in March after he carried a sign with an expletive in front of President Bush's name. His protest took place on the sidewalk at a well-traveled traffic circle in downtown Glens Falls. City police confiscated Schmidt's sign, and when he asked for the sign back, arrested him.

The March arrest was Schmidt's second in which the charges were dropped. An earlier arrest led to Schmidt's detention for more than a day, Schmidt told PETER'S NEW YORK, but that case was also dismissed. The Post-Star report did not explore the issue of whether the two arrests constituted a conspiracy to harass Schmidt on the part of the Glens Falls police department. But it appeared from statements published in The Post Star that Schmidt did not contemplate a lawsuit against the department for wrongful arrest at this time.

"His rights were clearly violated," Schmidt's attorney was quoted as saying. "I hope they understand the right to free speech isn't something that should be taken lightly."